01/04/2007 1:00AM

Best option for High Finance


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After he got through chasing Showing Up and Bernardini last winter, things started to look up for High Finance. Three wins from his next four starts led to the colt being widely considered one of the more promising members of the 3-year-old class of 2006, although a 30-length drubbing in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes during that span was an obvious clue that he had distance limitations.

Duly notified, trainer Rick Violette has kept High Finance in the appropriate one-turn spots, and now he looms as one of the major contenders in the first sprint stakes of the Gulfstream Park meet, the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap on Saturday.

Violette said he and representatives of the colt's owner, West Point Stable, seriously considered a run in the Dec. 26 Malibu at Santa Anita for High Finance, "but it was a big field and a tough race, and with the herpes virus scare on both coasts, we eventually decided not to try that. Then we looked for other options and there weren't that many, so here we are in the Mr. Prospector."

At six furlongs, the Mr. Prospector may be a tad shorter than what High Finance prefers, said Violette.

"But he's just doing so well that we have to run him," he said.

To get the colt to perhaps show a bit more early speed than usual, Violette is running High Finance in blinkers for the first time.

High Finance, with Rafael Bejarano to ride, will break from post 1 in a field of eight older horses entered in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, which is carded as the seventh of 10 races.

At least two opponents appear capable of challenging for favoritism and superiority. They are Kelly's Landing (post 8), a consistent gelding entered off a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to end a highly productive 5-year-old season, and Weigelia (post 7), a speedy 6-year-old who has earned nearly $900,000 and enters off a particularly sharp victory in the Grade 3 Kenny Noe last month at Calder.

The sleeper of the group may be Mach Ride (post 2). After several promising races in south Florida, Mach Ride was 8-1 in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga but lost virtually all chance when stumbling at the break. In his only subsequent start, he showed big speed in the Perryville Stakes on a Polytrack surface that was notoriously unkind to front-runners during much of the Keeneland fall meet.